The farm-to-table movement in Dallas is still going strong, at least that seems to be the case with the proliferation of restaurants that promise this style of locally focused cuisine. On the home kitchen front, though, it looks as if Dallasites might be losing interest in purchasing locally made meat and produce. In an email sent to former members and media alike last Friday, Oak Cliff’s Urban Acres Farmstead & Cafe announced it will soon be closing its doors.
For those of us who happily made the trek beyond Bishop Arts and into Oak Cliff’s charming little shop on Beckley Avenue, that comes as a great disappointment. According to Urban Acres founder Stephen Bailey, this closure is a long time coming. “During the last 18 months, we’ve seen a lot of folks in the organic sustainability market struggle here in Dallas,” Bailey wrote. “We were hoping to be one of the few who could weather the storm, but after many hard discussions the wisest thing for us to do is close down our brick and mortar location.”
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In addition to the locally made goodies and farm-raised meats on offer at the Farmstead, Urban Acres has also operated an impressively large community shared agriculture (CSA) program since 2010. Pickup locations for the Urban Acres CSA have proliferated across the city, even into the suburbs. Many of the CSA’s employees, in the spirit of sharing, are volunteers who donate their time in exchange for a small share of produce. In the release announcing their closure, Urban Acres maintained that they would continue the CSA program, and the building formerly occupied by the Farmstead would continue to be a pick-up spot for produce shares.
The relocation to Beckley Avenue in 2013 may have played a part in Urban Acres demise. As much as Dallas loves the Bishop Arts District, most non-locals don’t do much venturing beyond the intersections of Bishop and Davis streets. Clearly, the cafe, which received favorable reviews from our own critic, wasn’t enough to draw people off the beaten path. Now that Urban Acres is gone, though, who will pick up the mantle of offering cheap gardening classes and beekeeping lessons?
As Bailey noted in his email, many of the city’s organically focused businesses have seen their share of struggle into 2015. Green Grocer, a concept that sort of built on what Urban Acres was doing by adding a juice bar, prepared foods and a larger grocery selection, sent an email plea to their own customers earlier this year, urging them to financially support the shop if they didn’t want to see the doors close. As The Dallas Morning News reported in June, that email and social media plea from owner Cassie Green resulted in an uptick in business.
In a sort of silver lining, Urban Acres has announced that the Farmstead’s former building will continue to play host to a weekly pop-up shop from Fort Worth’s Melt Ice Creams, which planned to head to Dallasier pastures earlier this year. The Melt pop-up shop is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., coinciding occasionally with Farmstead pickups. Hopefully, that will create foot traffic to the Beckley location and encourage Bailey and the rest of the Urban Acres team that the Farmstead is worth another go.